Kennedy wins debut SW Florida 9-Ball Championship; Hibbits/Linares top Amateur field


Tommy Kennedy was so elated over his victory in the First Annual Southwest Florida 9-Ball Championships on the weekend of August 11-12, that he got a little heavy-footed driving home. A patrolling officer took exception to his exceeding the speed limit and pulled him over. Asked where his trip had originated, Kennedy explained where he'd been. The officer asked him how he'd fared, Kennedy told him he'd won the tournament, and the officer let him go with a warning.

Over the years, Kennedy has won a lot of tournaments, but this one, he said, was different.

"I hadn't won a tournament of this magnitude in years," he said, "and especially against Donnie Mills. I beat him the first time we ever played together, six or seven years ago, but he'd won the last 13."

The $3,000-added Open event of these first-ever championships, the brainchild of former Seminole Pro Tour Director, John DiToro, drew 35 entrants to Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral, FL. A concurrently-run, $1,000-added Amateur tournament drew 77 entrants and did not finish until 7 a.m. on Monday morning. The official tournament record lists Robert Hibbits as the Amateur event winner, though, in fact, he and Raymond Linares surrendered at about 7 a.m., and opted to split the winnings, rather than play a final match. 

Kennedy's victory over Mills came early; in the second round of play. Kennedy moved on, while Mills eventually fell in the loss-side battles that determined the four-way tie for ninth place. Kennedy advanced to the winners' side semifinals and faced Ralph Eckert. Justin Hall, in the meantime, squared off against Danny Green in the other winners' side semifinal. Kennedy defeated Eckert 9-7, as Green was sending Hall west 9-5. Kennedy got into the hot seat 9-4 over Green and waited in the hot seat for his return.

Hall moved to the loss side and picked up Tony Ruberto, who'd proved to be Donny Mills' downfall (9-2) and then defeated Pierre Palmieri  9-4. Eckert drew Mark Ritter, who'd survived a double hill battle versus Louis Altes and downed Anthony Meglino 9-3. Hall and Eckert got right back to work; Hall giving up only a single rack to Ruberto, as Eckert was busy surviving a double hill match against Ritter.

With a 9-7 victory over Hall in the quarterfinals, Eckert was a single match away from meeting Kennedy a second time. Green spoiled that bid in the semifinals, defeating Eckert 9-7 and earning his own Kennedy re-match. Kennedy took their second meeting 9-5 to secure the first-ever Southwest Florida 9-Ball Championship title.

The 77-entrant Amateur match that did not happen (the finals) would have been a re-play of the hot seat battle between Hibbits and Linares. It was Linares who took that hot seat set, after battling to double hill. Hibbits moved west to the semifinals, where he met and defeated David Uwate, double hill. Uwate had defeated Nathan Rose 5-1 in the quarterfinals.

Though it was a first-ever Southwest Florida 9-Ball Championship, it was a return to tournament director duties for John DiToro.

"I wanted to take a year off," said DiToro, who found himself (more or less) out of a job when the Seminole Tour chose not to launch a 2012 schedule, "but they kept bugging me to put something together."

It was a little like the story of 'Bre'r Rabbit,' who, in the Disney film Song of the South, begged 'Bre'r Fox' not to throw him into the briar patch, in the hopes that he'd do just that; thus returning 'Bre'r Rabbit' to an environment with which he was intimately familiar. On some levels, DiToro wanted that year off, while, at the same time, he was motivated and eager to get back into the swing of things. 

"I always liked doing it," he said of his tournament director duties with the Seminole Pro Tour, "always liked giving back to the sport."

DiToro thanked Diamond Billiards' owner, James Oswalt and his staff for their hospitality, while together, they acknowledged the sponsorship support of Coca-Cola, the Simonis Tour and a variety of local businesses (23), that contributed advertising money in support of the event.

"I also want to thank Javier Chirino (who finished in the tie for 13th place in the Amateur event)," said Oswalt. "He made all the glass trophies for us; the first, second and third place trophies for the Open and the first place trophy for the Amateurs."

The 35 entrants who played in the Open were more or less expected. The 77-entrant amateur field was more or less unexpected, though it contributed heavily to plans being made for the Second Annual Southwest Florida 9-Ball Championships. According to DiToro and Oswalt, this second annual event will likely occur at about the same time next year.

1st Tommy Kennedy $3,000
2nd Danny Green $1,700
3rd Ralph Eckert $1,300
4th Justin Hall $900
5th Tony Ruberto $700
Mark Ritter
7th Pierre Palmieri $400
Anthony Meglino

1st Robert Hibbitts $1,000
2nd Raymond Linares $600   
3rd David Uwate $400 
4th Nathan Rose $300 
5th Bill Eisenhard $200
Mike Delawder
7th Dave King $170
9th Bill Wilson $140
13th Travis Laswell $120
Rick Shanchez
Javier Chirino